Anyone driving through Atlanta’s eastside neighborhoods such as East Lake, Kirkwood and Decatur may have seen a crop of new yard signs.
The white signs with red lettering offer a not-so-subtle reminder for anyone cruising over the speed limit to “Slow the (expletive) down!” before sending drivers off with “Please” and “#namaste.”
The signs, created and funded by East Lake resident and realtor Ashley Derrick, are yet another effort to solve the issue of speeding in the area, she said.
“We have had so many problems especially along Memorial Drive in East Lake and with WAZE and (traffic) apps that take you through the community…Not only do people speed, they don’t look at what they are doing because they are on their phones,” said Derrick.
So she came up with the idea for the signs, paid for them out of her own pocket and had the first batch of 100 delivered to her yard to give to neighbors.
It didn’t take long for residents to create a thread on Nextdoor, the neighborhood app, and while most feedback was supportive, some neighbors took offense to they way the message was worded.
A few parents found it ironic that a sign designed in part to protect children would also expose children to profanity (even somewhat disguised) and at least one resident objected to the use of the word namaste in conjunction with swearing.
“Obviously, I had some feedback that has not been positive,” said Derrick. “This is tactless and I get it, but I listen to the radio and the radio bleeps out words or when you look at comic books, they bleep out words. It has gotten the attention of a lot of people and people have actually slowed down,” she said.
When she ordered a second batch of 150 signs the last 50 featured butterflies, birds and bees in the place of symbols in the expletive.
Morgan Tucker, a father of three boys ages 11, 9 and 7 who lives in East Lake, recalls having a conversation with Derrick about people driving 55 mph down residential streets.
Previous signs, like the one that says, “Drive like your kids live here, ” didn’t seem to be making a difference, he said. “They don’t respond to the nice stuff. Those other signs are visual white noise.”
When Derrick put out her signs, Tucker grabbed a couple and put one in his yard. A day later, it had been stolen. “I was irate initially. Then I remembered I had the less tactful sign, so I put that one back up,” he said.
Though his wife has expressed some concerns about the lack of tact on the signs, Tucker said in this case, he believe the end justifies the means.
“Some people are really upset about it. For those who are willing to have a conversation, my intent is not to be combative,” he said. Tucker said he would much rather a conversation with neighbors now about the signs and have them hate his guts rather than waiting for a conversation where someone is apologizing for hurting his children.
The signs have certainly sparked conversation, and some drivers really are slowing down, even if it is just to read the signs and chuckle, particularly on streets like Alston Drive where about 10 signs in a row dot the front lawns.
Derrick, who lives on Alston, came home one day to find a code enforcement officer taking a photo of the sign in her yard, she said. But city officials said code enforcement has not visited Derrick’s property and that in general, a sign of this type on private property would not constitute a code enforcement violation. If signs were placed in the public right of way, however, the city would remove them.
While the signs are contained mostly to neighborhoods on the eastside of the city, some have spread across the country. A visitor from Oregon pulled over and offered $10 to pluck a yard sign from the lawn, Derrick said. Another woman contacted Derrick because she wanted to give a sign to a friend as a birthday gift.
Any money that has been raised from the signs (Derrick spent $1,000 of her own money to have them made) will go toward replacing the beat up sidewalks in the neighborhood on Alston and East Lake Drives.
“The city does not replace sidewalks. They say it is the owner’s responsibility and many owners can’t or won’t pay for that,” said Derrick.
While her intent was not to offend anyone — she takes the time to reply to and thank anyone who sends thoughtful concerns — Derrick said she has taken her lumps for the effort and despite ongoing requests for signs, this run is over.
“I still have people asking me for them, but I’m done. For those who have not agreed with my choice of words, this is going to be a memory in three months,” she said.